Manitoba must double number of foster families, group says

Keeping Manitoba foster children out of hotels may be easier said than done according to the Manitoba Foster Family Network. Executive Director Shawna Normand says the number of foster families needs to double, and there need to be more homes available in an emergency.

Manitoba Foster Family Network says province needs more homes specifically for emergency placements.

Shawna Normand, Executive Director of the Manitoba Foster Family Network, said to keep children in Child and Family Services care out of hotel rooms, more emergency placement beds need to be available. (Shawna Normand)

Keeping foster kids out of hotels will be a challenge unless there are emergency beds available and the number of foster families doubles in Manitoba according to the executive director of the Manitoba Foster Family Network.

Yesterday Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross announced as of June 1 the province will stop using hotels as emergency foster placements.

It was in response to the assault of a 15 year old girl in the Cityplace parkade after she left a nearby hotel where she was in the care of Child and Family Services.

"I was devastated by that," said Shawna Normand, the executive director of the Manitoba Foster Family Network when she heard about the injured girl.

"For sure it's hard to hear things like that, to any child but particularly a child who's probably had some fairly negative experiences in her life already," Normand said.

She applauds the minister for her goal to end the use of hotels for emergency placements, but said it will be difficult to find enough beds.

"When you're looking for emergency placements, that can be a challenge, particularly if you're bringing in a large sibling group. We don't want to split the siblings even short term, if we can help that," Normand said.

Roughly ten thousand children in Manitoba are in foster care.

The province has committed to having more foster families.

Normand said the number of foster families needs to at least double to keep up with the demand. 

But there also needs to be homes that can be available quickly for emergency intakes.

"If we could establish emergency placements, so homes that would be specifically designed for that fast and immediate need for a placement I think that would be very beneficial to the system," Normand said.

The challenge will be finding more families willing to open their homes to children in need.

Normand said many people have negatives stereotypes of people who are foster parents.

"Foster parents are only in it for the money and you know it's hard to then feel comfortable opening up your home to a child if you know you're going to be attached with a negative stigma."